We all love stories about entrepreneurs’ ”aha!” moments, but most startups don’t unfold in such cinematic ways. More typically, I’ve noticed, an idea will start simmering slowly in the back of someone’s mind until circumstances, like a job loss, makes the would-be visionary get to work on it.
Serial entrepreneur Fred Burke grew the profitable Guardian Pharmacy, founded in 2004, from $15 million in sales to more than $250 million in revenue, so I was curious about what he thinks is the more crucial ingredient in getting a startup off the ground: Strategy or execution?
I was hoping he’d come down in favor of one or the other, if only to validate my hunch that the “executors” have an edge in today’s productivity-driven economy. But he didn’t think this was an “either/or” question. As a former McKinsey & Co. consultant, he told me that he learned early on that “an A-plus strategy, poorly executed, will result in a C performance. And a B-minus strategy, outstandingly executed, will yield an A performance.”
Technology may have made it marginally easier to bring a business “to scale” than a decade or two ago, but, he says, “it still takes people, talent, vision, an organization to make it happen.”
“An entrepreneurial venture is highly dependent on a successful strategy,” he added. And that strategy has to be executed by people, he says. In his view, motivating and focusing them requires team building. And that starts with vision.
So, like a lot of other things in life that are worth doing, starting a successful business isn’t so simple. It’s a momentum game, and you’ve got to get a lot of moving parts heading in the right direction. Figuring out how to do that is the secret to getting to where entrepreneurs like Fred Burke are.